Does L-Lysine Help Prevent Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease.

Genital warts or genital herpes is commonly caused by herpes simplex virus 2, usually shortened to HSV2. It is considered a sexually transmitted disease and characterized by recurrent infections. Research indicates lysine might be helpful as treatment.

About Lysine

According to, lysine or L-lysine is one of the essential amino acids — your body cannot manufacture lysine but must get it from food. Lysine is important for proper growth; it helps promote calcium absorption and is integral to the formation of collagen. A deficiency of lysine can result in reproductive disorders, anemia and slowed growth. Lysine food sources include red meat, eggs, cod, sardines and legumes. Supplement forms of lysine include pills, patches, creams and liquids.


Genital Herpes and Lysine

Genital herpes outbreaks show up as small fluid-filled lesions in the groin, penis or vaginal area. An outbreak is preceded by an itching, burning sensation; blisters gradually change to a yellowish crust and might ooze or bleed before they heal. While the blisters don't usually leave scars, the skin where the infection occurred might stay red for a while after the blisters heal. Herpes outbreaks tend to recur and can be precipitated by stress, fever, sun exposure and hormonal changes such as menstruation. While they usually heal in about 10 days without treatment, prescription creams like Zovirax are an option. Another possibility is taking lysine supplements.


Multiple sexual partners in a person's lifetime increases the chance of developing genital warts. According to the University of Maryland, oral lysine can be useful in preventing recurrence of cold sores, which are normally caused by HSV2. Oral sex can transmit HSV1 to the genital area or HSV2 to the mouth, so it can be difficult to tell whether a genital herpes outbreak is caused by one virus or the other. F.A. Tomblin and K.Lucas, both pharmacists, reported in Medscape News for Nurses that in a literature review on the use of lysine, they found six studies that supported using lysine to prevent recurrence of outbreaks. However, only two of the studies reviewed reported lysine as effective in helping during an actual outbreak. The University of Maryland suggests 3,000 to 9,000 mg of lysine in divided doses for an outbreak, and to prevent a recurrence, 1,000 mg three times a day. Both amounts are for adults.


More Research

John G. Beauman of the U. S. Marine Corps published an extensive review of genital herpes in the "American Family Physician" in October 2005. Beauman found that the initial infection of genital herpes tends to last several weeks and a recurrence lasts about a week. He states that lysine might be effective in suppressing repeat outbreaks; like the University of Maryland, he recommends a daily dose of 1,000 mg orally in three doses. Tomblin and Lucas also found one study in their review of patients for whom 1,000 mg of lysine a day resulted in fewer recurrences of genital herpes.


Considerations and Warnings

Genital herpes is highly contagious, and both oral-genital contact and sexual intercourse should be avoided during an outbreak. People who are at higher risk of infection include people with AIDS, cancer, an organ transplant or eczema. The University Of Maryland reports lysine is safe if taken in recommended doses, although gallstones have been reported with high doses, and pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with kidney disease should not take lysine. If you think you have genital herpes or have concerns or questions, talk with a health care professional.